Watson C. Squire

Civil War sharpshooter,
Arms dealer
Governor of Washington Territor

by Patricia R. James, author
published December 2005


      Watson Carvosso SQUIRE had a long, colorful, and industrious life.  That life began in Cape Vincent on May 18, 1838.  His father was Rev. Orra SQUIRE, a Methodist itinerant preacher who belonged at various times to the Oneida Conference, the Black River Conference, and the Northern New York Conference.  Rev. Squire served many appointments all over the North Country.  He was born in Richmond, Ontario Co., NY on April 5, 1807 and died in Greencastle, IN on April 15, 1900.

     W. C.'s mother was Erretta WHEELER, daughter of Ebenezer WHEELER.  She was born at Boonville and married Orra in 1837.  Besides W.C., the couple had three daughters: Mary E., Frances E. and Ellen A.  Erretta's brother was also a Methodist preacher, Rev. Elisha WHEELER.             

     Attention is drawn to W. C's given names.  Was there a family connection to WATSON and CARVOSSO?  No solid information could be found via the internet.  However, many years ago, I picked up a little volume published about 1835, an autobiography entitled, "Memoirs of William CARVOSSO - 60 years a Class Leader in the Wesleyan Methodist Connection."  This preacher was born in 1750 in Cornwall, England and died in England in 1834.  ('Memoirs' were completed and published by his son.)  It is possible that William Carvosso became a preacher of note on both sides of the Atlantic and that's why Orra gave Carvosso's name as a given name to his son.      

     Watson C. grew up in the North Country and attended its schools: Falley Seminary in Fulton (Oswego County) and Fairfield Seminary (Herkimer County).  In 1859, he graduated from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT.  In the next 6 years, he served as principal of the Moravia (NY) Institute, graduated from Cleveland Law School (1862), and soldiered in the Civil War (19th NY regiment, Co. F and the Independent Company of Ohio Sharpshooters which he raised).  He also served as judge advocate at court martials, accompanied Gen. SHERMAN on his march to the sea, and participated in such Civil War battles as Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge.   

    With the Civil War finished (he mustered out on July 28, 1865), W. C. came home to work in an arms manufacturing company: E. Remington & Sons of Ilion, NY.  (Ever hear of the Remington rifle?)  His duties over the next 14 years included manager, treasurer and secretary of the company.  He sold guns, yes, but did you know that Remington & Sons also sold sewing machines and typewriters? Yes, they did!  Even so, as an arms dealer, the company sold to countries all over the world: France, Russia, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Egypt, and Mexico to name a few.  To all these, Squire traveled as Remington's sales representative.                                    

     W. C. also had the good fortune to marry the boss's daughter.  Ida was the daughter of the company's president, Philo REMINGTON, and his wife, Caroline.  She was born on Nov. 20, 1842 in Ilion.  W. C. and Ida married on Dec. 23, 1868.  She remained his companion for over 50 years.  Death took her on Feb. 28, 1921. 

     Philo REMINGTON purchased land in the Territory of Washington to which he sold a portion to his son-in-law and daughter.  W. C. moved to Seattle in 1879 and developed much in the White River Valley area. With his business and family connections, he formed acquaintances with U.S. Presidents James GARFIELD and Chester ARTHUR

     Upon the sale of his properties in 1884, he entered the political arena and was appointed Governor of Washington Territory.  He served in this position for three years.  In that short time, he faced the challenge of the anti-Chinese riots in Tacoma and Settle, 1885-1886.  Only by declaring martial law was peace and order finally restored. 

     As president of the Statehood Convention, W. C. worked towards the admission of Washington as one of the United States.  When it was admitted in 1889, he became one of its first senators.  Congressman Watson C. Squire served from 1889 to 1897.  During his terms in office, he chaired the Committee on Coast Defenses.  He won recognition for improvement to the rivers and harbors of his state.  Through his efforts, the Puget Sound Naval Shipyards at Bremerton became a reality.

     After leaving politics, W. C. practiced law.  He founded the Union Trust Company largely to administer his properties.  The name was later changed to the Squire Investment Company.  It was dissolved in 1976 and the assets distributed to the heirs of W. C. and his wife.  Surviving them were two sons and two daughters.                                                                        

     The Watson C. Squire Papers are among the special collections held at the University of Washington.  His granddaughter, Mrs. R. Hugh DICKENSON of Seattle, donated it.  There exists a Guide to them online.  It is suggested that for any help you request, you contact the Reference Desk at either speccoll@u.washington.edu or 1-206-543-1929 or write % the University to P.O. Box 352900, Seattle, WA 98195. 

     The online Guide has a comprehensive inventory list covering 1850 -1926.  (W. C. died in Seattle on June 7, 1926.) Some of the material covers his school years at Falley and Fairfield.  Other material covers his Remington Company years.  Both are topic areas that hold much potential interest for the North Country researcher.  

Sources for this article:

University of Washington (State) Libraries - online bios
Black River Conference Memorial, Vol. 3 (published 1923)

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